nhl bubble toronto

This is what life is like for NHL players quarantined inside the Toronto bubble

NHL players have been hidden away in the Toronto bubble since the hockey season resumed earlier this summer, and many fans have been wondering what life is like inside the exclusive community. 

Dean Matsuzaki, NHL executive vice president of events, is overseeing the Toronto bubble, and he told blogTO what a day in the life looks like inside the bubble.

"The best word to describe it is routine," Matsuzaki said, explaining that for most teams, every second day is a game day while the other is an off day.

Each day, for every player, starts with a COVID-19 test, Matsuzaki said, and then players have breakfast. 

If it's an off day, players will usually practice right after the meal, according to Matsuzaki, then do some kind of recreational activity in the afternoon, then have dinner, and then have time off to do whatever they please, as long as it's inside the bubble of course. 

On a game day, players take a test, eat a meal, play the game, and eat again. 

And, as is to be expected when you're talking about professional hockey players, Matsuzaki said the athletes work out constantly.

On top of the gyms in the Fairmont and Hotel X, where the players are staying, additional exercise areas have been added both indoors and outdoors for the players. 

Matsuzaki added that they've tried to provide ample outdoor space for the players so they don't feel confined to their hotels, including by setting up a huge patio deck at the Fairmont and allowing players to make use of BMO Field.

"We're trying to provide as much as possible for the players," he said.

And when the weather doesn't cooperate, each team has a designated player lounge on their hotel floor where they can hang with their teammates and play video games, cards, or anything else to keep them busy.

Players also have access to a variety of food options, said Matsuzaki, including the hotel restaurants, a barbecue restaurant at BMO Field, Real Sports restaurant near Scotiabank arena, a variety of pop-up food events, and more.

Just last night, Rodney's Oyster House held a pop-up for players at Hotel X. 

"We're working with the restaurants to really keep things fresh and mix up the menu," he said. "I think this weekend is a pop-up sushi restaurant at Hotel X."

When asked if players seem to be visibly homesick while away from their families, Matsuzaki said it appears that players are coping fairly well with the distance thanks to technology.

"Of course anybody being away from loved ones for a period of time, you tend to miss them of course. But technology makes it easy to keep up. I think everybody is managing very well," he said.

"The compactness of the tournament schedule, it keeps everybody's mind pretty focused on the hockey… So you don't have as much time to really dwell on the fact."

And while players do have the opportunity to socialize with athletes from other teams, Matsuzaki said they seem to be sticking to their own cohorts for the most part — except those who know each other from playing on other NHL or minor league teams together in the past.

In terms of COVID-19 safety, he said compliance with the rules has been great thus far and that he believes players really understand the importance of maintaining health and safety precautions for everyone's sake. 

Currently, Matsuzaki said they're in the process of working with the various health authorities to try and offer excursions for the players, but they first have to make sure this can be done safely.

In the meantime, he said they'll continue to focus on bringing offerings, such as special dinner and movie nights, to players inside the bubble to make sure the experience is a positive one. 

And Matsuzaki said it's not just the players who are enjoying their time inside the bubble — staff are also grateful for the one-of-a-kind experience, himself included. 

"From the staff side, it's actually been a great experience as well," he said. "The teamwork and comradery has been excellent."

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